Canadian RV Sales Dip

Sales are not great this year. That was the verdict I received when I spoke with one of Canada’s largest RV dealers this week. This, from Statistical Surveys Inc, paints a bit of a troubling picture for the Canadian RV industry:

  • Travel trailer sales fell 13% year-over-year through August.
  • Canadian fifth-wheel sales were down 20.1% for the eight months.
  • Folding camping trailer registrations declined 17.3% through August.
  • Park model RV sales rose 8.1% for the first eight months on low volume.

This is how the segments broke out for Canada:

  • Thor Industries Inc. was the overall Canadian towable sales leader through August with a 50.4% market share, ahead of Forest River Inc. (36.7%) and Grand Design RV Co. (6.6%).
  • Thor was the leader in travel trailer sales for the eight months, claiming a 51.8% market share, followed by Forest River (36.6%) and Grand Design (4.8%).
  • Thor also led Canadian fifth-wheel sales, capturing a 51% market share, followed by Forest River (27.6%) and Grand Design (18.1%).
  • Forest River led Canadian folding camping trailer sales through August with an 84.8% market share while Thor posted a 9.8% share.
  • Woodland Park topped the park model RV segment with a 45% market share followed by Cavco Industries (27.5%) and Forest River (20%).

I do not have the Canadian numbers for other types of RV shipments. The overall RV industry in North America is down this year and I would expect that the Canadian numbers would be similar if not worse.

Year-to-date sales of Class A motorhomes are down 26.5% from last year.

If Canadians elect a Liberal government, or put in place a Liberal minority government backed by the NDP and/or Green, the Canadian landscape would move even further left and that would certainly have a negative impact on the Canadian RV market.

Consider the new luxury tax that the Liberal government will impose if they are re-elected:

One interesting piece of confetti is the concept of a “luxury goods sales tax” being introduced to help offset some of the new spending in the Liberal platform. The psychological messaging here could hardly be plainer. This is not the grandiose and dubiously practical “super wealth tax” that the New Democrats want to introduce. On inspection, the tax doesn’t turn out to apply to most of what we would call “luxury goods” at all; the Liberals would rather die in a ditch than target $1,800-handbags or anything an interior decorator might hornswoggle you into buying.

It’s 10 per cent on automobiles, boats and planes for noncommercial use, if valued at $100,000-plus. In a word, toys.

I can think of one important exception to that last sentence: many retirees with empty nests spend $100,000-plus on a motor coach or RV to engage in dreams of continental travel while their health still allows for it. This tax will be a little bit tough on them. Anyone who has saved for such a vehicle and has been on the verge of buying it may have to adjust — or race to beat the tax if Liberal victory seems likely.

From what I can tell, there has not been a last minute surge in the sales of expensive RVs. And I think I know why. Many Canadians are unaware of this particular tax. When political parties in Canada talk about taxing the rich, or imposing a luxury tax, most Canadians believe that the politicians are going to be taxing someone else.

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